Interview with a Zombie: Creating the Perfect Tribute to Children of the 80s

by Howie Decker @HowardTheDeck on September 24, 2014

in Nerd Culture

I recently had the honor and pleasure of reviewing one of the coolest collector’s items I’ve ever seen, an unrivaled tribute to children of the 80s: 8-bit ZOMBIE’s Thrashor figure.

As a follow up, I had a chance to chat with Ross, the diabolically brilliant creator of 8-bit ZOMBIE, as I could no longer fight the urge to dive deeper into the genesis of Eternia’s raddest zombie.

We discuss 8BZ’s humble beginnings, its greatest influences, the current relationship between Thrashor and Skeletor, and talk about upcoming 8-Bit Zombie projects!


How was the idea for 8-Bit Zombie born, and what was the first 8BZ branded item you created?

8-bit ZOMBIE was born from my love of all things 80s. Pure and simple. I’ve been obsessed with the 80s pretty much all my life! So when I decided to start a clothing line, I knew from day one it would be retro themed. One of my biggest loves from the 80s is the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System, so that’s where the “8-bit” part comes in. I’ve also been a huge zombie movie fan for many years so “ZOMBIE” seemed like a good fit too.

The very first branded item I created was a trucker hat with a print on the brim. In fact, I started out with only hats, believe it or not. It was a fun and unique thing at the time and actually helped to get my brand some attention in those early days.


What are some of your pop culture influences, and how have they shaped who you are and what 8BZ is?

The movies, cartoons, toys and video games of the 80s have shaped (and maybe even warped) my brain more than anything else, and I think that clearly shows through my brand. Growing up in the 80s was definitely magical. It was a golden age for toys and cartoons. As a kid, it really felt like there was an endless universe of toys and games and characters to explore. I was captivated by all of it and it fueled my imagination in so many ways.

Masters of the Universe and G.I. Joe were two of my favorites. And as already mentioned, the NES was a HUGE part of my childhood. I spent endless hours lost in those pixelated worlds. And of course movies! Ghostbusters, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Goonies, Neverending Story, Labyrinth, the list goes on and on. There was SO much awesome entertainment for a kid in the 80’s. And I soaked up every last drop of it.


Let’s talk Thrashor. Can you briefly walk us through the process of designing, creating and producing a fully original figure and package?

Thrashor started out as a tee design back in 2012. Long-time collaborator and amazing artist, Matt Skiff and I, decided to create our own MOTU character for a tee. We are both toy fanatics and we spent a LONG time coming up with the look and finding the perfect name for our creation. At some point the idea to parody the MOTU packaging came up too and I’m SO glad we went in that direction.

I think adding the package parody into the design is a big reason why the actual toy became a reality. Right from the start, Matt and I joked about turning Thrashor into a toy but it all seemed so unattainable at the time. After the tee was released, Scott Wetterchneider of Shinbone Creative got in touch with me and proposed the idea of helping to make a real live Thrashor toy. I jumped at the opportunity and things snowballed rather quickly from there! Scott is a master artist and sculptor and created an absolutely perfect 3D likeness of the previously 2D Thrashor.

We started off with unpainted, solid resin figures, produced in the states and packaged in bags with toppers. And they did unbelievably well! From there Scott and I decided to take things to the next level. We upgraded Thrashor to vinyl, gave him MOTU style articulation and a radical new paint job. Due to the original shirt design, I pretty much had the cardback artwork ready to go, so doing old school style packaging was a no-brainer. The new figs were produced in China which was a big learning process for me and was a bit scary. But it all came together in the end.

All in all, the upgrade was a long process but it was certainly worth it. The new figures turned out better than I could have ever imagined. Having my very own toys made is definitely a dream come true for me and is hands down the favorite thing I’ve done with the brand. It’s pretty amazing to look back at the tee shirt design and see how it all unfolded. The decision to do that shirt was a pretty fateful one and I’m so glad it happened.


Just for fun: who would you see as Thrashor’s arch enemy in the MOTU Universe? Who would be his wingman at the Eternia skatepark?

I’m a big fan of mysterious characters who’s allegiances are unknown. I’ve kinda played with that idea with Thrashor and the two other 80s toy parody characters I’ve created (Noxious & Roadkill). But that being said, Skeletor brought Thrashor back from the grave (Thrashor does have a full back-story), so old bone-head might be Thrashor’s nemesis.

I could also see Thrashor chillin’ with Zodac, as they share a similar mysterious and somewhat neutral disposition. Scare-Glow just looks like he would be friends with Thrashor as well. I’d love to see those two in an epic skate-off!


What’s your favorite action figure of all time?

Tough question! There are SO many rad G.I. Joe figures that I really love. Not to mention the plethora of other amazing 80s toy lines. But I think I might have to bring it back to MOTU and go with Skeletor. Everything about Skeletor is awesome but also really bizarre if you stop and think about it. The multi-colored skull head, the blue skin, the claw-like hands and feet, the buff physique.

Just imagine that you have never seen Skeletor before or even heard of Masters Of the Universe… You’d look at the figure and think WHAT IS THAT!? So many questions arise. But as strange as he looks, he also looks equally awesome. Skeletor looks evil, powerful, dark and menacing. Everything you’d want out of a villain right at first glance. And then of course he has great weapons too. The Havoc Staff furthers his ominous look. And wait, he rides a giant purple panther into battle!? Yep, Skeletor is definitely at the top of the list.


What future radness do you have in store for 8BZ fans?

Definitely more toys! If people keep buying them I’ll keep making them. Thrashor variants are on the horizon. And other characters will be sure to follow. And of course more rad shirts, hats, sticker packs, etc. I’ve also got some really fun ideas for new and unique 8BZ items that I’m sure any 80s kid will love. Really excited for the future! Lots of radness in store!


Visit the 8-bit ZOMBIE shop and blog here, and follow @8BZ on Twitter and Facebook to stay current on 8BZ developments and offerings!

Shawn Robare September 24, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Cool interview guys, Ross is such a nice dude and 8BZ stuff is all over Branded in the 80s HQ…

HowardTheDeck September 26, 2014 at 9:25 am

I would imagine the entire 8BZ catalog is right up Smurfwreck’s alley! He really is a great guy.

Cool and Collected September 25, 2014 at 9:15 am

There are so many great items in the 8BZ shop but every 80’s kid needs a Thrashor in his life!

HowardTheDeck September 26, 2014 at 9:24 am

It’s so so cool.

Matt September 25, 2014 at 4:07 pm

Great interview! Ross makes awesome shit, and his drive, passion and outlook have long inspired me.

HowardTheDeck September 26, 2014 at 9:25 am

That’s awesome Matt! Hey thanks for the comment, I’m a big fan of your site as well. I always know what to scope out at Target, etc. based on what you find!

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